Meet our staff


Young Children’s Community

Elise Arevalo – Fireside Class Guide

Ms. Elise Arevalo earned her master’s degree in Montessori Education from Loyola University in Maryland. She holds Montessori Assistants to Infancy (age 0–3) and Primary (age 3–6) certifications from Montessori Northwest, an Association Montessori Internationale(AMI) training center.  Ms. Arevalo began her Montessori journey in 2007 after joining the staff of Montessori Northwest and feeling a deep connection and synchronicity with the pedagogical method. Ms. Arevalo has guided children and parents in Montessori schools from birth to age six since 2011 and finds great joy in supporting teachers and parents in understanding and implementing this inspiring educational approach. In her leisure time, Ms. Arevalo enjoys spending time in nature and exploring the forests and beaches of the Monterey Bay.

Jasmin Iskandar – Mulberry Class Guide

Jasmin comes to Santa Cruz Montessori with nearly a decade of art and yoga teaching experience in LA public schools. During her last year as an art teacher at KIPP Iluminar Academy, she discovered the Montessori pedagogy at an educational conference, and was moved to pursue a career as a Montessori guide. She completed her AMI studies at the Montessori Training Centre of British Columbia, under the guidance of Maria Teresa “Cha Cha” Vidales. In February and March of 2021, Jasmin had the privilege of completing her student teaching in the Mulberry environment, where she learned first-hand how special SCMS really is. In addition to her children’s educational background, Jasmin is a trained Hatha and Vinyasa yoga instructor, a Reiki Master, musician, and artist.


Primary

Annie Morris – Monarch Class Guide

Annie has been with Santa Cruz Montessori since 1990 and established the Monarch class when our Primary program expanded at that time. After attending Cañada Community College, Annie continued her education at the Montessori Teacher Training Center of Northern California and received her Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) Primary (3 to 6) diploma in 1984. She was a guide at the training center before coming to SCM. Annie has continued her education through AMI refresher Courses and is also trained in Sequential English Education (SEE), Lindamood Phoneme Sequencing® (LiPS®), and teaching children with autism spectrum disorders. In addition, she serves as a mentor teacher for the AMI Teacher Training Center and regularly oversees observers and student teachers. Annie has a special interest and talent in preparing Montessori classroom environments and often advises other guides in creating beautiful, harmonious environments for children.

Santa Cruz Montessori Tree Logo

Sophie Davenport – Ohlone Class Guide

Sophie earned her Master’s in Education from Loyola University Maryland and her AMI Primary Diploma from the Montessori Institute of the Northwest in 2019. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Women Studies and Creative Writing from Hampshire College. After receiving her AMI training, she began her Montessori teaching career as an assistant teacher and summer school guide at West Hills Montessori School in Oregon. She enjoys spending much of her free time outdoors with her friends and family.

Julia Patterson – Redwood Class Guide

As the Guide in Redwood class, Julia delights in nurturing the greatest potential in young children. 

Julia has earned a Montessori Primary (ages 3–6) certification from Montessori Northwest—an Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) training center—, an M.Ed. in Montessori Education from Loyola University, and a B.A. in Child Development from San Jose State University.

Julia began working as a Primary Assistant at Santa Cruz Montessori (SCM) in 2005. She and her husband have four children, all of whom enjoyed attending the Primary program at SCM. She feels a deep connection to this special community and continues to love learning about Maria Montessori’s inspiring method. In addition to her commitment to lifelong learning, Julia enjoys spending time with her family, serving in her church, dabbling in crafts, and taking walks in nature.

Julie Parraguirre – Willow Class Guide

Julie has been teaching at the primary level for more than 20 years. She is a graduate of the University of Nevada and the University of San Diego School of Law, and received her AMI diploma in Austin, Texas. Before becoming a teacher, Julie practiced labor and employment law in Houston, Texas. She is the proud mom of three grown sons. Julie’s interests include cooking and eating good food, learning to speak Spanish, international travel, writing haiku, hiking and exploring, and returning to long distance running, cycling, and racing. She has competed in more than 60 races including the coldest, wettest, and most miserable Boston marathon ever!


Lower Elementary

Nina Noorzad – Adobe Class Guide

Nina received her BA in Liberal Studies from California State University, Fullerton in 2003 and in 2004 completed the Multiple Subject Teaching Credential Program at CSU Fullerton. Following graduation, Nina discovered Montessori and worked as an assistant in a Montessori school in Southern California. After working as an assistant for five years, Nina entered training and earned her Association Montessori Internationale Elementary diploma from Montessori Institute of San Diego. Before joining Santa Cruz Montessori, Nina was the head teacher of a lower elementary Montessori classroom in Huntington Beach, California. Nina has traveled to many places around the world and loves to incorporate cultural diversity into her classroom.

Mariah Lambert – Sequoia Class Guide

Mariah was born and raised in Santa Cruz, Ca. She received her BA in Liberal Studies with a minor in Human Development from California State University, Monterey Bay in 2018. During her last semester in college, Mariah began working at Santa Cruz Montessori as part of the CARE team. In addition to working on the CARE team, she was a substitute teacher and worked as a Learning Coach. It was during this time that Mariah realized her love for Montessori education and decided to get her AMI Elementary certification that upcoming fall of 2019. Mariah attended her elementary training at Montessori Northwest in Portland, Or and graduated in May of 2020. Mariah also received her Master’s in Education from Loyola University Maryland while attending Montessori Northwest and graduated in August 2020. Outside of school, Mariah enjoys spending time with her family and friends, traveling and enjoying everything nature has to offer.

Madison Gillen – Evergreen Class Guide

Madison was raised in Santa Cruz, CA and attended the elementary program at Santa Cruz Montessori as a child. Madison went to Green Mountain College in Vermont where she received a BA in Sustainable Agriculture with an emphasis in Environmental Education. Following her bachelors degree Madison attended Westminster College in Utah where she received her American Montessori Society (AMS) Primary diploma coupled with her Masters of Education. Madison then worked in the classroom as a Primary head teacher in Park City, UT. After a few years Madison moved back to the Santa Cruz area and pursued her passion for lifelong learning and completed two more Montessori diplomas. In Golden, CO she received her Association Montessori International (AMI) Adolescent diploma and then in Portland, OR she received her Association Montessori International (AMI) Elementary diploma. Madison enjoys hiking, singing, knitting, playing volleyball and being with her two dog, her partner Jake and their daughter Nirvana. 


Upper Elementary

Melissa McGuffin – Cypress Class Guide

Melissa was born and raised in Santa Cruz and attended Santa Cruz Montessori when she was five years old. She earned her BS in psychology at the University of California, San Diego. After graduating from college, she volunteered a year through AmeriCore, where she worked in Iowa at a camp for adults and children with disabilities. Melissa returned to SCM in 2005, where she first assisted for a year in the Willow Class. She has been an Upper Elementary Guide since 2006. She received her Association Montessori International (AMI) Elementary diploma from the Montessori Training Center of Minnesota in 2009. In 2010, she earned her MEd from Loyola University, Maryland.

Kristin Tosello – Junior Class Guide

Kristin was born and raised in Santa Cruz, California and attended Santa Cruz Montessori as a child. She started at Santa Cruz Montessori in primary and was in the inaugural Wavecrest class. Kristin went to University of California, Santa Cruz for her Bachelor’s degree, where she received a BA in Community Studies with Honors. After working out of the area with homeless youth, Kristin returned to Santa Cruz to raise her daughter, who has attended Santa Cruz Montessori since primary. She worked as an assistant in the upper elementary program beginning in 2010 and she received her Association Montessori Internationale Elementary diploma from Montessori Institute of San Diego in 2015. Kristin enjoys hiking in the redwood forest with her daughter and three dogs. She also enjoys doing woodworking projects in her free time.


Junior High

Angela Bridi-Milligan – Wavecrest Director

Angela Bridi-Milligan, BAs in History and Environmental Studies, MA in Education, CA Teacher Credential in History with English supplemental, Humanities Guide and Director of Wavecrest

Ms. Bridi-Milligan attended University of California, Santa Cruz for both her undergraduate and graduate studies.  She graduated in 2001, with a Bachelor of Arts in History (emphasis on ancient and medieval studies) and Environmental Studies (emphasis on Agroecology/Sustainable and Organic Agriculture). She returned to UCSC in 2004 earning a Masters in Education and a California Single Subject Teaching Credential in History, adding a supplemental English credential.  Ms. Bridi-Milligan taught humanities at New Brighton Middle School for 9 years, coached the girls’ volleyball teams for 10 years, and for a year was an assistant coach for track and field.  She joined Santa Cruz Montessori in 2014, as an upper elementary assistant in the Cypress class (9-12 year olds).  Ms. Bridi-Milligan attended and completed the Association Montessori Internationale Orientation to Adolescent Studies training program in Illinois, in 2018.  Ms. Bridi-Milligan joined Wavecrest in 2018 as the humanities guide; in 2020 she became the director of Wavecrest in addition to the humanities guide. 


Educational Specialists

Jenny Taskey – Learning Support Program Director

Jenny Taskey has been with Santa Cruz Montessori since 2003, when her son entered the Monarch primary class, and she joined the Learning Support Program as a SEE instructor and classroom tutor for all levels. Since then, she has completed her lower elementary Montessori training with the Montessori Teacher Education Center San Francisco Bay Area in San Leandro, California. She also received training in the Lindamood-Bell programs of Visualizing and Verbalizing as well as Seeing Stars, and the Montessori Applied to Children at Risk Training at the June Shelton School in Texas. Jenny was born in Germany, where she completed high school before she started her college education in America. She received a BS in Marine Biology from UCSC and completed the undergraduate program in psychology at San Jose State University. She is currently a graduate student for the masters program in Special Education at San Jose State and has taken on the role Director of the Learning Support Program. She is passionate about learning and applying all she knows to help children reach their potential as happy human beings.


Administration

Kim Saxton – Head of School

Kim has delighted in creating a love of learning in children from a very early age. After receiving her BA in English in 1994, she fell in love with Montessori education. To complete her goal of being a Montessori Guide, she obtained her Association Montessori Internationale Elementary Certification and her M.Ed. from Loyola University of Maryland. Kim has worked in Montessori classrooms since 1994, both at the primary and elementary levels. She was pleased to join Santa Cruz Montessori in 2001, as an Elementary Guide and counts her many years in the classroom there as some of the best of her career. In 2015, Kim was selected to become the Head of School. She embraces her responsibilities with a great deal of enthusiasm and enjoys sharing her love of Montessori in many settings. Being born and raised in Santa Cruz County has given her an appreciation of the community’s unique qualities and many opportunities for outreach. Kim is married and has twins, both whom attended SCM through Wavecrest. She is incredibly thankful for the significant role Santa Cruz Montessori has played in the lives of her family and the community. Kim has developed a deep appreciation for the unparalleled foundation of lifelong learning and compassionate citizenship that a Montessori education provides to children. In her free time she enjoys her garden projects, a dedicated workout program, long walks on the beach, and cooking with an emphasis on nutrition.

Kathy Rideout – Enrollment Director

Kathy first came to SCM in 1976 as a Primary teacher. Over the years, she served as a guide in the Redwood and Adobe (Primary) classes, and helped begin the Fireside and Willow classes. Kathy received her BA in psychology (1970) from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and her American Montessori Society (AMS) Primary teaching credential (1973) and MEd (1979) from the College of Notre Dame. Kathy was the Head of School for Santa Cruz Montessori from 1997 to 2016. As a Montessori parent, she originally joined the Board of Trustees and served as president in the mid 1980s and served as the Head of School for many years. Over the years, Kathy has continued her education in nonprofit management and Montessori school administration and has participated in a wide variety of workshops on child development and education. She is the mother of two former Montessori students and the grandmother of two current Montessori students.

Molly DiPiero – Assistant Enrollment Director

Molly was born and raised in Aptos, California and attended Montessori school as a child, including the elementary program at SCM. During high school and college, Molly worked in the summer and after school care programs at Santa Cruz Montessori. After graduating from the University of Michigan with a BA in American culture, Molly returned to SCM and worked as an assistant in the primary program. She received her Association Montessori Internationale Elementary diploma from Washington Montessori Institute in 2012 and completed her MEd from Loyola University in 2013. Molly is passionate about sharing her love of learning with children